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GIF Slips Away From Unisys; Your Move, IBM

jamie posted more than 10 years ago | from the do-the-right-thing dept.

Patents 609

Twenty years ago, Terry Welch's improvement on Lempel-Ziv compression appeared in IEEE Computer magazine. The authors of unix 'compress' and the GIF standard incorporated that algorithm without realizing it was patent-pending. When the submarine patent surfaced ten years later, its new owner Unisys intimidated developers and web authors into moving away from GIFs, inspiring the creation of a better standard, though sadly still a less popular one. Today, July 7, 2004, Unisys's last LZW patent (in Canada) expires, leaving GIF once again free... almost. See, there's the small matter of IBM's patent, granted on the same algorithm, which is valid for another two years. That still has a chilling effect on GIF development, though the consensus seems to be that IBM would lose any court action it tried to bring. So how about it, IBM? You've got nothing to lose! Want to make a lot of geeks happy and release that final patent into the public domain?

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

GO IBM! (4, Insightful)

bernywork (57298) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630886)

Do it for the common good. Aside from business, really what open source is for!

If the poster is correct (5, Insightful)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630887)

and png truly is a better standard why should geeks care what happens to gif?

Re:If the poster is correct (5, Insightful)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630915)

Well, one reason is that, once-upon-a-time, we had to build apps for browsers that didn't support .png, so even though we could handle .pngs, we had to consider our clients who were stuck with .gifs. Thankfully, even the lowliest [microsoft.com] of browser almost supports .png these days.

not even close! (4, Informative)

Ender Ryan (79406) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631037)

IE does not support the #1 most useful aspect of PNG, namely, alpha transparency. Without alpha transparency, you may as well use JPEG or GIF in most circumstances.

Indeed, the web would be much more beautiful if IE supported alpha transparency in PNGs.

Re:not even close! (3, Funny)

HungSquirrel (790165) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631062)

Cha-ching! I'd use PNG, but if the browser with 95%+ market dominance doesn't support its most useful feature...

in any case (0)

muyuubyou (621373) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631095)

It supports PNG enough as to substitute GIF in any case.

Your comment makes no sense in this context.

IE doesn't support alpha transparency in PNGs, and that's substandard on their part, but I don't think the web would change much if it did unless everybody started bloating their sites with transparent effects where it is not needed.

Re:in any case (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9631134)

Alpha channels are useful for antialiased drawings that are not dependant on a specific background.

Re:If the poster is correct (5, Informative)

Ghengis (73865) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630922)

Because GIF is used MUCH more, so people writing software that make use of images in general (browsers, image editors, etc.) have to deal with this patented algorithm, or risk losing users because their software doesn't support one of the most widely used formats.

Re:If the poster is correct (0)

dhanes (735504) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631023)

Choosy perverts choose GIF!

Re:If the poster is correct (-1)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631143)

Man. Once of my 1990 13 year old pet peaves was when people pronounced .GIF as "jiff." SORRY! Come again! Better luck next time! There is another format- called jiff, the JPEG Interchange File Format. So pshaw!

Good thing I'm over that, huh?

Re:If the poster is correct (1)

GeckoX (259575) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630923)

Took the words right out of my mouth.

I haven't used gif in a couple of years now, there's just no contest when compared with png. Now if MS would just update IE to natively support png alpha channels the web would be a much more wonderful place!

Re:If the poster is correct (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9630926)

It's hard to do away with GIF because GIF's are animated. PNG's are not. There's the MNG standard, which is basically an animated PNG, but it isn't widely supported yet.

Re:If the poster is correct (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9631043)

Animated gifs are the one thing holding you back? Can't live without that animated mailbox flashing on your website? Or perhaps it is the dancing hamsters that keeps attached.

Is there a legitimate practical use for animated gifs that I am missing?

Re:If the poster is correct (3, Insightful)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631073)

> Is there a legitimate practical use for animated gifs that I am missing?

Two issues with this:

1. THe fact that you cannot imagine a practical use doesn't mean there isn't one.

2. Seeing the popularity of flash to create animated advertisements, banners and such, there may not be a 'need', but defintiely a very strong wish to use such things.

Re:If the poster is correct (1)

makomk (752139) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631082)

Is there a legitimate practical use for animated gifs that I am missing?

Among other things, I remenber pages on the BBC websites that used animated diagrams to help explain various things. I'm sure you could find an example. But you're right, most uses of animated gifs are l4me

Re:If the poster is correct (2, Insightful)

HungSquirrel (790165) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631087)

Not many. Animated GIFs are being replaced by Flash in the advertisement arena. GIF's only real purposes now are transparency and compression. PNG's alpha transparency makes it an image format with nearly limitless web potential, but alas, Microsoft only cared about supporting standards when they almost had competition from another browser...

Re:If the poster is correct (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9631090)

Is there a legitimate practical use for animated gifs that I am missing?

Because some websites require animation, and don't want to go as far as Flash or embedding quicktime/other video files. There's more to GIFs than the dancing hamsters, dummy.

Re:If the poster is correct (2, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631106)

hmm, that's funny, the first thing I do when setting up a new computer with Mozilla is to set image.animation_mode(once). I can't stand being distracted by annoying animations at the corner of my vision. In fact on the rare occasion where there IS a need for animation you can either do DHTML tricks or use flash.

Re:If the poster is correct (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631124)

When we developed a large set of images to help teach English, some naturally lended themselves to animation. "Pick up your pencil" would be a little confusing for a six year old without motion, while it's perfectly clear with it.

In fact, everything for that project was png except the animation, and I wish that GIMP could've done that in an open format.

Re:If the poster is correct (3, Insightful)

Azrael Newtype (688138) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630935)

Principle mostly, and perhaps gif development can make it better than png if it becomes free. It's possible anyway. And png does offer better compression/quality from what I've seen in my admittedly limited experience, but the free software community that basically dominatess /. (not a knock, just saying the OSS community here is pretty big) would like it free as a victory for OSS, regardless of its usefulness. Just my $0.02

Re:If the poster is correct (4, Informative)

Davak (526912) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630956)

Quick source view of the main slashdot page shows that "gif" is found about 50 times.

"png" is found twice -- both of which are related to the original post.

Now you know why we care. The web community uses gif more than png. For better or worse...

Davak

Mod parent up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9630981)

If Slashdot thinks it's a geek haven then it should act like one by using open standards. Then again, looking at the quality of the HTML on this site it's pretty obvious that the use of GIFs are the result of laziness.

Re:Mod parent up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9631076)

If by open standards you mean XHTML and CSS, I disagree. Older computers can't run the latest offerings from Mozilla and Opera. They're still stuck with browsers that choke on "open standards". Besides, what's more important is content, not markup.

Re:Mod parent up! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9631141)

But Slashdot's current HTML isn't standard either. I've had modern browsers completely barf on some of the slashcode output, splitting the screen in half. They are still using the CENTER and FONT tags, and ANY properly-written older browser will ignore newer HTML or CSS stuff. If you are running a low end machine, stick with a properly written low end browser. Don't blame new standards for odd rendering in old, crappy browsers.

Re:If the poster is correct (-1, Troll)

Dark Lord Seth (584963) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631120)

The "web community" also promotes the use of Flash, RealMedia, narcism (*logs/*journals) and IE-only sites like Slashdot. ( Stupid admins STILL haven't fixed the overlapping problem in Mozilla/Firefox ) So fuck the "web community" as a whole and let's concentrate on the individual communities that do not suck. ( Hello Wikipedia )

Re:If the poster is correct (5, Insightful)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630959)

There are many "better" things that, for whatever reason, just aren't as popular compared to other "inferior" things.

The PNG and GIF situation is like the OGG and MP3 situation. Sure, OGG may be better, but everyone already knows what MP3 is, has all their songs in MP3 format, has programs that know what do wo with MP3s, has players that know what MP3s are, etc. etc.

Re:If the poster is correct (2, Interesting)

AKnightCowboy (608632) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631020)

and png truly is a better standard why should geeks care what happens to gif?

Because most people still use GIFs and most older browsers and paint programs don't support the PNG format. If GIFs are unencumbered by patents then it becomes the preferred format for activist web-nerds again since there's no need to worry about PNG incompatibilities with older software.

Re:If the poster is correct (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9631022)

maybe because nobodt can get off their ass to support it correctly... (MICROSOFT? YOU HEAR ME?)

and animated png has been missing for a long time now.

yes it DOEs have it's uses... webcams showing the last 10 frames or radar images showing the last 10 are a really great use.

I personally cant wait for GIF to become free so I can flip off all the anti GIF people that bitch about the one graphic format that has decent transparency that is supported across ALL browsers and animation capabilities.

Yes I would like real Alpha transparency, but IE wont support it correctly in PNG for at least another 30 years.

Mods get to work. I smell redundancy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9631058)

A comon sense question does not require 10 similar responses.

When done, mod this post to offtopic.

Re:If the poster is correct (2, Insightful)

kwoff (516741) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631107)

I've found that PNG is oftentimes way more bloated than GIF. Maybe it's not a general rule but related to the particular image software I was using.

Re:If the poster is correct (2, Informative)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631142)

Because of the LZW compression algorhythm.

It's still superior to PNG's compression and I hazard a guess that PNG can be modified to use LZW.

first post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9630894)

fp!

What have they got to lose... (1)

mikael (484) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630903)

I am sure IBM have better things to fight over than one of many image file formats, especially when JPG and PNG, and TIF are probably more useful now.

Re:What have they got to lose... (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631007)

Bettor or not, GIF is still *the* standard for lossless image displays. This is partly due to its extremely common and well supported usage for web pages.

IBM also has many, many more patents than they really need. It's a very powerful defensive tool for when they are accused of patent infringement: they can say "but you violated *our* patents, and they're worth a lot more than yours in this case, so if you sue us you will lost". They've tried to be good about licensing patents, but their patent vault or library is *HUGE*.

Opening up a patent due to expire in order to foster development in this would be very helpful to my friends working in various digital video fields, fostering their use of superior open source or freeware tools to create actual, sellable content.

Re:What have they got to lose... (1)

Azrael Newtype (688138) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631111)

Can a file format limited to 256 colors really be called "lossless?" Sure if the raw bmp or whatever raw uncompressed format you prefer was less than 256 colors it's lossless, but 257 on up and it's lossy, just to varying degrees. Detail might still be there, but it has to decide what colors your eye won't really miss too much, and throw out that information, and not always in a pleasing way.

If they were really cool... (2, Interesting)

Karpe (1147) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630905)

They should enforce the patent and only license it to products who would implement PNG (correctly) as well as GIF. ;)

Why do we need GIF anymore? (5, Informative)

NoMercy (105420) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630907)

I'm not sure on the merits of the GIF format after all these years, the only thing it brings to the web expierence is flashing adverts, PNG provides full alpha-transparency which is really required for the future of web design.

Re:Why do we need GIF anymore? (5, Funny)

AuraBorealis (772837) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630934)

Yes, because what we really need is alpha-transparent flashing adverts!

Re:Why do we need GIF anymore? (0, Troll)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630947)


GIF's are almost always smaller than PNG's for icons and things like that.

Re:Why do we need GIF anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9630978)

Nope they aren't.

Re:Why do we need GIF anymore? (3, Insightful)

stripyd (614714) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630989)

Sadly whilst few web designers care that my browser doesn't render Arial and my system doesn't play windows media, they *do* care about the large number of punters out there whose old windows 9x system's browser doesn't support png...

Re:Why do we need GIF anymore? (4, Informative)

NoMercy (105420) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631036)

Everything which supports modern CSS styling supports PNG... it's just not everything supports all the features of PNG, the most noted case being IE doesn't support alpha-transparency.

Many people also believe PNG's to generally produce larger images to GIF, if youre generating PNG's using the 'recomended settings' then yes for many images this is the case, but if your image doesn't need 16.7 milion colors and full alpha-transparency, don't enable them switch to pallete based with no-transparnecy.

Re:Why do we need GIF anymore? (4, Informative)

julesh (229690) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631013)

Compatibility. A huge number of existing web sites still use GIF as their primary image format. We need to be able to produce software that can manipulate these images if we want any hope of penetrating the web authoring market. This has prompted many workarounds in the past (such as libungif, a piece of software that produces GIF files without using the patented algorithm -- but unfortunately this means not having any compression) which will become obsolete once all patent issues have been cleared up.

Re:Why do we need GIF anymore? (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631121)

Just make the software decode GIFs and replace them with PNGs. The user doesn't notice anything except that the site gets faster.

We don't need GIF. Say goodbye to the GNU hippies (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9631130)

Yay, now they can realize there are no more needs to protest. ESR is sure to tell all the trolls to go home. Given they're all homeless, where is a good shower when they need one? I know ESR with all his millions of US $$FRN will not have a charitable GNU shelter for these rank bastar^H^H^H^H^H^Hpatriots. Anyone willing to shower a poor GNU of that second-world country we call the United States corporation?

This is cause for celebration. (3, Insightful)

solarmist (313127) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630909)

Having one of the most commonly used compression algorithms in the public domain is going to be a huge boon for me as a student because it'll allow me to finally see how commonly LHZ is implimented and let me study compression.

Anyone happen to have a copy of the alg. lying around?

Re:This is cause for celebration. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9630937)

Read a book. I'm pretty sure we covered this in one of my networking classes.

Purpose of patents? (1)

KamuSan (680564) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630945)

Shouldn't you be able to look the algorithm up in the patent itself? That's what patents were for, weren't they? A patent is open, so everybody can learn from it, but making money of it is limited to the patent holder. And after a patent expires, the invention is in the public domain, so everybody can use it.

Re:Purpose of patents? (1)

solarmist (313127) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630969)

Ummm... Yeah I looked at the patent. It's not exactly the easiest to read. I'm looking for a standard notation algorithm.

Re:Purpose of patents? (1)

makomk (752139) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631113)

Shouldn't you be able to look the algorithm up in the patent itself? That's what patents were for, weren't they? A patent is open, so everybody can learn from it, but making money of it is limited to the patent holder. And after a patent expires, the invention is in the public domain, so everybody can use it.

In theory. In practice, all patents are written in a sort of 'patentese', incomprehensible to normal human beings. One theory is that this was done to drum up more business for patent lawyers. Of course, that can't be true... surely?

Re:Purpose of patents? (1)

no longer myself (741142) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631133)

You know, I have the same problem when it comes to reading patents. It's impossible for me to actually parse that "language" they use to determine just what the heck they are trying to describe.

Of course, I don't really understand why anyone needs to hold onto a patent on GIFs anyway, but such is life.

Re:This is cause for celebration. (5, Informative)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631080)

The original Welch paper is pretty readable:

Terry A. Welch, "A Technique for High Performance Data Compression", IEEE Computer, Vol. 17, No. 6, 1984, pp. 8-19.

If you don't want to go to a library and look that up, then Google will find you about 12000 hits on "Welch LZW", and the first few all seem to be exactly what you want.

Re:This is cause for celebration. (4, Informative)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631148)

the whole ruckus was because they did publish the algorithm widely and it got used widely - and only then did they reveal their submarine.

the algo is/was very widely known.

Missing pun (0)

danormsby (529805) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630912)

Go on IBM GIFt it to us.

Re:Missing pun (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9631075)

The pun is missing because it is commonly pronounced like the peanut butter Jif not like Gifford.

GIF sucks. Move on. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9630916)

This story should win some kind of award for Slashdot patents-are-bad whoring. You're talking about an obsolete technology that nobody cares about. Nobody was "intimidated" into not using GIF, GIF withered because it's limited to 256 colors and usually doesn't compress as well as JPEG.

IBM has done ENOUGH for the Linux community. Asking them to make special arrangements in the name of some halfassed ideology is not a good idea.

Re:GIF sucks. Move on. (4, Informative)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630962)

You're talking about an obsolete technology [GIF] that nobody cares about.

I'd question that. Check Google images [google.com] and see how many web sites still exclusively use .gifs. Not to mention a certain main-stream browser whose support for .pngs is still patchy.

I guess you and I have different definitions of "obsolete".

Re:GIF sucks. Move on. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9631039)

I guess you and I have different definitions of "obsolete".

Probably. For instance, I'm of the opinion that MS-DOS is obsolete, notwithstanding the fact that there are MILLIONS of installations running it today. (yes, CP/M is obsolete too)

Re:GIF sucks. Move on. (1)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631110)

For instance, I'm of the opinion that MS-DOS is obsolete, notwithstanding the fact that there are MILLIONS of installations running

Fair point. Unfortunately, I'm not in a position where I can ignore technologies that are still widely used. While clients want animated .gifs, I (or a colleague) will be happily making animated .gifs (and feeling dirty...)

Re:GIF sucks. Move on. (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631054)

IE's support for PNGs only lacks in features that GIFs don't support anyway, so there's no disadvantage to using PNG over GIF from that front.

Re:GIF sucks. Move on. (1)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631089)

so there's no disadvantage to using PNG over GIF from that front.

Good point - that rarely occurs to me, for some reason. Another poster made the point that .pngs also don't support animation, which I suppose is a valid point - I tend to think that that's a good thing, but there you go...

pr0n (0)

isoprophlex (659648) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630918)

I'm sure this will be a godsend for all the pr0n website owners out there. They were probably looking for a better way to show there "free trials" on their sites.

Why should we care (5, Insightful)

ultrabot (200914) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630919)

What would be the benefit of giving up the patent? We've already got .png, right?

What would be more interesting is suing someone over it. This patent "cold war" is annoying - it would be more beneficial to see an all-out war where large companies crumble, and the idiocy of software patents is demonstrated once and for all. Cold war only server to suffocate, and masses never learn of the damage being done, because it's so invisible.

Interesting article on how IP law conflicts with ancient chinese tradition is here [slashdot.org]

Sorry, botched the link (2, Informative)

ultrabot (200914) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630951)

Real link is here [linuxinsider.com]

PNG's..... (0, Troll)

jeffkjo1 (663413) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630930)

PNG files are not a better format. The folks that created it shot themselves in the foot by ignoring the primary reason to use a GIF file. Animation.

You can't make animations with PNG files....

Re:PNG's..... (1)

Mirk (184717) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630949)

You can't make animations with PNG files....

Explain again why this is a disadvantage?

Re:PNG's..... (1)

k98sven (324383) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631006)

How about:
Because some of us need a format for simple animations which can be viewed on any machine without the hassle of installing software or codecs to use?

There is simply no other option in that niche.

Re:PNG's..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9631114)

Please tell me why you need animations? Pretty much every web design guide I have ever read says to stay away from them, I've never seen them used in any helpful manner, their main domain is in annoying pop-up and banner ads, and they are usually plain ugly.

Again - why do you need them?

Re:PNG's..... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631123)

when was the last time you saw an useful gif animation?

not some monkey jumping around on some web page, or a some rotating "under construction" sign or something.

places where i see .gif used on web are mostly things that a lossy .jpg isn't good for, icons and that kind of stuff. things where .png would be great.

though lately i've been using .png quite a bit.. since it's the format of choice for j2me.

Re:PNG's..... (5, Informative)

eddy (18759) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630997)

You can't make animations with PNG files....

Sure you can, only the result is called MNG [libpng.org] .

Re:PNG's..... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9630999)

Ever heard of MNG? http://www.libpng.org/pub/mng/

Mod parent down, -1 Clueless Troll.

Re:PNG's..... (1)

Azrael Newtype (688138) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631009)

Funny, and here I thought the primary reason to use GIF was a toss-up between transparency and the fact that the algorithm makes it well suited to compressing cartoon like images, usually better than JPEG (admittedly much worse for photos with the 256 color limitation [i.e. quality bites] and larger even if you can get the quality good, but photo rendering was never the point IIRC). PNG does both of these better, and there are certainly better web standards for animation out there than GIF images.

Re:PNG's..... (1)

eht (8912) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631010)

Perhaps you missed Multiple-image Network Graphics [libpng.org] , basically animated png.

Re:PNG's..... (1)

sporty (27564) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631012)

And that's bad, how? Sounds like they were trying to eliminate a problem. ;)

Re:PNG's..... (1)

hrieke (126185) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631015)

Yet, some of us would say that is a *good thing*.

They didn't ignore it... (1)

Millennium (2451) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631029)

Actually, the PNG folks do have an animation standard: MNG [libpng.org] . In fact, it's in many ways superior, because it can support lossless or lossy compression (JNG).

Unfortunately, by making it an optional part of the standard, they ensured that browsers wouldn't support it. Even Mozilla doesn't support it anymore.

Re:PNG's..... (1)

rmathew (3745) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631031)

PNG files are not a better format. The folks that created it shot themselves in the foot by ignoring the primary reason to use a GIF file. Animation.
That is why we have MNG [libpng.org] ...

Re:PNG's..... (0)

tokul (682258) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631059)

You can't make animations with PNG files....
MNG [libpng.org]

And that's a bad thing because... ? (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631091)

Whatever would we do without animated gifs? Incidentally, you can use MNG for animated PNGs.

Re:PNG's..... (2, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631127)

But GIF is the worst format for animations ever!

IBM Executives: Free positive publicity. (-1, Troll)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630931)


IBM Executives: Now is a chance to get a lot of free publicity, with no money lost, since no one will license the patent, anyway.

Sadly, IBM Executives probably don't read Slashdot, because they don't know how to type. (That's why they have secretaries.)

Not in the old days (4, Interesting)

DrDebug (10230) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630932)

In the 1980's I'm pretty sure that IBM would fight tooth and nail for any patent infringement. But those were the days when IBM was the 800 pound gorilla and what Microsoft wanted to be (and eventually became).

Nowadays IBM is on the rebound, and wants to put forth a kinder and gentler face. In as such, along with the almost impossible task of enforcing a practically public domain standard, it would be politically correct for them to just look the other way on GIFs.

The other patent should constitute prior art (2, Insightful)

N Monkey (313423) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630952)

Unless the IBM patent introduces something new (but I couldn't see anything like that in the first claim) and you were actually using it then, assuming the expired patent was filed before the IBM patent, the former should constitute (public) prior art. You should be able to use it without concerns .

Of course, the lawyer types might still want to argue the case since that's how that make their money

IBM is friendly (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9630966)

IBM has shitloads of patents for all kinds of stuff, but it doesn't enforce them except to defend themselves. Thus this isn't a concern for OSS. Also I bet there are dozens of more relevant patents people should be asking them to release...

Re:IBM is NOT friendly (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9631125)

IBM does enforce its patents on any company they think can pay. The did it to my company and to other companies that I know of.

Stop spreading the lie that IBM only "defends" itself using patents.

Burn All GIFs (1)

anandpur (303114) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630973)

We are done with GIFs [burnallgifs.org] long ago and moved on to PNG [libpng.org] and MNG [libpng.org]

GIF (2, Interesting)

dcordeiro (703625) | more than 10 years ago | (#9630976)

Give
It
Free

And release arithmetic coding while you are at it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9630993)

Hey, LZW isn't the only compression scheme out there.

Re:And release arithmetic coding while you are at (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9631026)

From the compression FAQ at http://www.faqs.org/faqs/compression-faq/part1/sec tion-7.html

IBM holds many patents on arithmetic coding (4,122,440 4,286,256 4,295,125
4,463,342 4,467,317 4,633,490 4,652,856 4,792,954 4,891,643 4,901,363
4,905,297 4,933,883 4,935,882 5,045,852 5,099,440 5,142,283 5,210,536
5,414,423 5,546,080). It has patented in particular the Q-coder
implementation of arithmetic coding. The JBIG standard, and the arithmetic
coding option of the JPEG standard requires use of the patented algorithm.
No JPEG-compatible method is possible without infringing the patent, because
what IBM actually claims rights to is the underlying probability model (the
heart of an arithmetic coder).

Obligatory Troy ref. (4, Funny)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631000)

Beware of Geeks bearing GIF's

And besides (1)

arieswind (789699) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631014)

If they release the GIF patent to the public, they can spend their time doing other things, like fighting off the SCO army of lawyers.

Does SCO use any GIFs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9631016)

... on their website or in any of their products (sic)?

(Same goes for the rest of the "Canopy Group")

If so, then IBM should beat them over the head with their patent!

Chest Thumping (4, Insightful)

Samus (1382) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631018)

For all the chest thumping that has gone on on slashdot about the gif patent it never made sense to me why they never replaced their gifs. How hard would it have been to have a page with gifs and a page with pngs and then switched between them based on user agent string? I think all the arguments that were made would have had much more weight if they would have put their money where their mouth is.

PNG (5, Insightful)

HungSquirrel (790165) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631041)

Internet Explorer still fails to correctly support PNG's superior transparency capabilities. Otherwise I would have adopted it much sooner in my web development. Can't run round incorporating standards into your websites that the browser that holds 95% market dominance does not support.

</TokenMicroSuckJab>

LZW tiff, too (2, Informative)

Willard B. Trophy (620813) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631042)

Does this mean we can get LZW compression back in libtiff [libtiff.org] too, then? It would be really nice to be able to supply compressed press-ready images to printing houses.

Yeah, I know there are deflated TIFFs, but they can be like "wha...?" in the prepress world.

My only question... (2, Funny)

lacrymology.com (583077) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631046)

All I want to know is how will this effect my collection of mid-90s era pr0n?

-m

jamie needs to hit the books. (3, Insightful)

Sheepdot (211478) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631061)

So how about it, IBM? You've got nothing to lose!

Why yes, nothing to lose. Which is exactly why you're practically begging them.

... though the consensus seems to be that IBM would lose any court action it tried to bring.

No offense jamie, but you should really refrain from making things up like this. There is no one anywhere with any sort of legal background that would agree with this. Hell, it's probably libel to say that. It most assuredly is an outright lie.

If IBM releases it, then that's great, but don't try to badger them into it.

Am I missing something? (5, Insightful)

solarmist (313127) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631074)

Is there a reason that the writer of this topic chose to talk about the implications about having GIF open to the public rather than talk about having LZW open?

I personally think having LZW is of much more significance than GIF.

mif (0, Troll)

svelt (777403) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631097)

I'm sure microsoft will make some retarded image format that nothing but IE can read, and the whole windows community will think it's oh so leet. damn the majority!!! .mif (Microsoft Image Format)

IBM isn't going after anybody.. (3, Insightful)

k98sven (324383) | more than 10 years ago | (#9631128)

I really doubt IBM is going to go after anybody.

Unisys was collecting money on GIF licenses for years, if IBM wanted to capitalize on this, they would've sued Unisys back then.

Besides that, there is good reason: It is, by all accounts I've read, the same algorithm.
The Unisys LZW patent had even been granted before the IBM patent had been applied. It had priority by a mile. The IBM patent is simply worthless.

Developers shouldn't concern themselves with bogus patents. I for one have written programs which save GIF files, and although I respect(ed) the Unisys patent, I'm not at all worried about the IBM one.
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